When You are Tired…

My Dear Girls,

One day, you may be a wife and mom to young kids – or not.  And you will likely have a job outside and/or inside your home, with inevitable busy seasons.  Either way, you will definitely, 100%, beyond a shadow a doubt, have times when you are tired – as in, too tired to think, exhausted, or as we say in the country, “worn slap out” kind of tired.  When you come to that point, here’s some earth-shattering advice on what to do next…

STOP.  REST.

But… but it’s not that simple. Yes, yes it actually is.  Unless you want to crash and burn a few days/months/years later.  There are not many excuses that are more important than your health and overall well-being, which is really what you’re sacrificing when you choose to skimp on rest.  We must care for ourselves first, if we are going to be able to care for those who we love so dearly and who are depending on us!  Preaching to myself here, over and over again…

Most women today are stretched way too thin – partly by our many roles in serving others and partly by our own decisions and commitments (that too often aren’t as necessary as we think).  The bottom line is that you are not a robot; you were designed by your Creator to rest – on a daily and weekly basis.  The Lord gives us rest as a gift.  He even modeled it for us in the creation of the world.  But we have to take it, to prioritize it, because no one else is going to do it for you!  On the contrary, most people will take as much of you as you are willing to give.  The Lord revealed the importance of rest and its power on my physical, spiritual, and emotional health a couple of years ago after I went through some health issues that led me to examine my lifestyle and habits and make some hard, but necessary changes.  They weren’t easy lessons to learn, but I’m so grateful I did.  I would encourage you to study what the Bible says about rest.  God wants us to rest in Him, recognizing that He is God and we are not, as we let go of the control we often cling so tightly to.

So, what does this look like on a practical level?  Well, for starters, sleep is a basic human need but often viewed as a privilege here in America, where people pride themselves on productivity in exchange for rest.  I recently read an article that the number one cause of aging is lack of sleep – hence, the phrase “beauty sleep.”  Did you know our brains and bodies actually take time to repair and regenerate while we sleep?  Beyond sleep, try to carve out a few restful times into your day.  Try simple things like waking up early to have a quiet time with the Lord, not working at your desk through lunch, sitting down to eat meals, taking work breaks, limiting your time on social media (or whatever in the world we’ll have in the future), having parts of your day that are “unplugged,” or just making yourself sit still for a few minutes here and there without DOING anything (Why, oh why, is this so much harder for women than for men?!).  Also, taking at least part of one of your weekend days for a sustained Sabbath rest is so important, and although I neglect it more often I’d like to admit, I have resolved to do better!

Most importantly, learning how to say no – often to the good, in exchange for the best (probably a topic for another letter) – precedes rest.  I have had to learn to reevaluate and change some habits that had set the tune of my life to frantic rush, which really is no way to live.  And although I still struggle from this from time to time, it doesn’t take me as long now to tune in and get back on track.  Don’t wait as long as I did to learn the power of rest and to freely accept what’s already been so graciously given to you.  You are not God, you are not a robot, and you ultimately are not in control, so give yourself permission to surrender to and be restored through the wonderful gifts of His freely given rest – both physically and spiritually!

Resting in Him,

Your Monday-Tired Mama

The One Thing

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Dear Kate & Annabeth,

I’m getting ready to leave tomorrow to go on our annual church women’s retreat, and I remembered something I wrote after last year’s retreat that I wanted to share with you:

I spent the past weekend at our church’s women’s retreat with some precious Christian sisters at a gorgeous location with two of my favorite things, water and woods.  While there, I heard one of the simplest and most powerful Truths through an amazing Bible Study delivered by our women’s ministry leader, Tollie Meggs.  And she brings the Word – in an awesome, anointed way.  Just, wow!  How blessed we are by the gift of her teaching.

So often, we tend to complicate motherhood.  And you know what else we tend to complicate?  Simply being – our entire lives. We were made for one purpose – to worship.   Everyone who is alive is worshiping something or someone.  Specifically, we were created to worship God – our Creator, Provider, Sustainer – and His Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  To do anything else is to waste our lives.  To attempt to put anything else – work, goals, dreams – before worship is to totally miss the picture.  Worship must be the origin of and must be pervasive within all that we are and all that the do.  I can tell you what work, including spiritual service, will do to a believer who got worship out of order in the equation – It leads to exhaustion and burnout.  I know this firsthand myself from past experience and know far too many other ladies who also know what it feels like to work hard for the Lord without having worship in its proper place… and it’s not a pretty picture.  To learn and live out true and acceptable worship will first and foremost please the Lord, and it will also spill over and impact every single area of our lives.  I am convinced that a person never be all she can be without worship at the center of her life.  But we don’t do it for ourselves; we do it because God is worthy.

It’s life-changing stuff, if we will simply submit to the Lord’s leading, obey His commands, and make time to truly worship Him.  And, despite our modern vocabulary, worship is not synonymous with music or meditation – nor does it require anyone else to lead us into it.  There are no bells and whistles, no bright lights or fantastical out-of-body experiences – just simply surrendering yourself to spend time sitting at the Lord’s feet, praising Him for who He is and all He has done, as His Spirit meets you there.  Because my words are pitifully inadequate in describing the depth and breadth of the command to worship and its accompanying promises, here are a few of many verses on worship.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10: 38-42

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth. – John 4:23 (NIV)

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  – Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.  – Matthew 23:23-26 (NIV)

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.  – Hebrews 12:28-19 (NIV)

My prayer for myself and your Dad, for both of you, and for anyone who reads this is that we will be filled by God with a renewed desire – a consuming hunger and thirst – for His Word and His commands, to seek His face and truly worship him with all we have, above all else for all of our days.  To get that one thing right will be to have succeeded in all our roles in this life, as well as eternity.

All My Love,

Mama

When You Don’t Know What To Do

My Dear Girls,

This may be one of the shortest letters I write you, but not among the least important. There will be many times in life when you feel as though you’ve come to the end of yourself, exhausted all the options – you truly don’t know the next step to take. When you find yourself in that place, go to this story from the Bible:  2 Chronicles 20.  I won’t go into the details here, because I want you to take time to read it yourself. Remember that God’s Word is living and active for believers, who have the Spirit of God living within us. God  often speaks personally to us through Scripture, offering wisdom and guidance directly to our current situation.

I was recently led to this passage during a time of worry over a difficult situation – and reminded of it again today – and it brought me such great peace both times. Here are my two favorite parts:

“… For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.
‭‭- 2 Chronicles‬ ‭20:12‬

“Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.” – 2 Chronicles‬ ‭20:15, 17‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I won’t reveal the ending, but it’s pretty awesome! Go check it out for yourselves. And when you find yourself feeling lost or hopeless, take a lesson from Jehosaphat:  Turn back to God, seek His wisdom in prayer, and trust Him to take the reveal the next step, all the while praising Him. After all, the battle isn’t ours to begin with. All we need to do is stand firm, fix our eyes firmly upon Him, and rest in His loving faithfulness.

In Hope,

Mama

Three Magic Letters to Reset Your Attitude

Dear Kate & Annabeth,

One day, when you grow up, you will have many jobs and responsibilities that, while you will ultimately be thankful for, you may find yourself struggling with at times.  It’s easy to lose motivation and fall into a complaining, versus a grateful, attitude pattern.  A few people smarter than me have reminded me at different times in my life of a magical three-letter word that holds the power to reset your attitude from negative to positive – get.

I have to make and clean up after what sometimes seems like endless meals and snacks each day, but I get the pleasure of feeding my growing family healthy food out of an abundant pantry and fridge, often enjoying quality times around the table, while many mothers in the world shed tears over starving children.

I have to do some work during a Fall Break family vacation, but I get the opportunity to have a fulfilling job and to shape future teachers.

I have to pick up the countless socks, toys, and scraps of paper that my family leaves all over the house, but I get to have an active, loving family and opportunities to serve someone else in love.

I have to drive my mom taxi to and from school, preschool, dance, play practice, church, and what feels like a thousand other places each week, but I get to spend quality time talking and hanging out with you guys and watching you grow in your talents, friendships, and work ethic.

I’m preaching to myself here, too.  Despite my best efforts, my attitude can be pretty crummy sometimes.  And it becomes a spiral – the more we focus on what’s wrong, the more wrong we see.  But I get another change to reset my perspective and remind myself of my blessings and opportunities every day, every hour, every minute – and so do you.  So, when the “have to’s” all seem overbearing, stop and remind yourself of the power of “get.”

All My Love,

Mama

To Be Significant…

Today was my Gran’s, your great-grandmother’s, birthday, and her fifth birthday spent in Heaven.  She would have been 96!  She was the most wonderful person – a true Christian and Southern lady in every way – and countless people are better for knowing her, myself included.  Kate, she had so much fun with you as a baby and toddler, and Annabeth Margaret, her namesake, she would have absolutely loved you!  Gran didn’t leave behind a list of impressive worldly accomplishments, but she touched many, many lives for God’s glory by authentically caring for people and truly living out her faith.  Her life is a great reminder of where our true significance really lies.

I wrote a tribute that was read at her funeral, which concluded with this quote:

Not all of us can do great things.  But we can do small things with great love. – Mother Teresa

I came across another quote earlier today and thought it was so simple and true:

To be significant, all you have to do is make a difference with others wherever you are, with whatever you have, day by day. – John Maxwell

It reminded me of the Vacation Bible School pledge I learned as a child:

I will do the best I can, with what I have, where I am, in Jesus’ name today.

Or, in simplest terms, God’s basic command to us in His Word can be summed up as follows:

Love God.  Love people.

So, don’t over complicate success or significance by adhering to the world’s standards.  Significance is found in a life lived with true meaning and purpose, which is revealed only in an abiding relationship with the Giver of Life.  Be surrendered to Jesus, be intentional, work hard, and you will undoubtedly achieve significance both in this world and eternally.  I pray often that each of your lives would be used for significant purposes, both big and small, to His glory.

All My Love,

Mama

What to Do When You Feel Overwhelmed

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Dear Kate and Annabeth,

As women, it’s not a matter of if you will feel overwhelmed, but when.  Men have the luxury of putting their stress aside in neat little compartments, but not us!  Thoughts are constantly swirling inside our heads like a tornado, and while this can be a blessing for multitasking purposes, it can also cause us to feel a little crazy during stressful seasons.  As a working mom, I know the feelings of overwhelm all too well… But as I grow in my relationship with the Lord, I have also gained some strategies that help me to shorten the time I stay in that place.  So, without further ado, straight from the depths of midterm week grading, here are my tried-and-true best tips for what to do when you feel overwhelmed, in no specific order:

  1. Pause and breathe.  Remind yourself of who you are, who God is, and who you are in Him. “Be still, and know that I am God.”- Psalm 46:10
  2. Acknowledge how you feel, and then state the truth of the situation.  Often, our feelings lie to us, but Truth is unchanging.  (This is where Scripture memory comes in really handy – Pick a few anchor verses to cling to in stressful times.  Write them on index cards, until you memorize them.)
  3. Pray.  Give your cares to God, and remind yourself He is in control.  “Cast your cares on Him, because He cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:7; “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7
  4. Make a list.  Do the first thing.  And then the next, and the next.  If the list seems too long, identify the top 3 most important “must do” items.  Count it a success if you finish those things!
  5. Set a timer, work until it goes off, and then take a short break.  I like the Pomodoro method – work for 25 minutes, followed by a 5-minute break, with a longer break every few “poms.”
  6. Be thankful.  List your praises on paper or out loud.  Rejoicing is a theme in Scripture.  It’s very difficult for gratitude and anxiety to inhabit the same heart.
  7. Ask for help.  Call a trusted friend… or better yet, your mom! 🙂
  8. Put it into perspective.  It could always be worse – always.  Ask yourself, “Will this matter in five years?”  I can’t remember where I heard it, but a great piece of advice when you feel very stressed is to remind yourself that it isn’t brain surgery (unless, of course, you are a brain surgeon – then, perhaps it is pretty important!).  Other people’s demands may not get met on their desired timetable, but at the end of the day, many things we think are direly important are truly not, in the grand scheme of life.
  9. Put on your running shoes (or your dancing shoes) and some good music, and move!  Outside in nature, if possible.  Exercise is the best natural therapy – and it’s free!  Hands down, running is my number one way to clear my mind and erase the stresses of the day.
  10. Take a timeout to care for yourself.  Make a cup of tea.  Call a friend to chat.  Go window shopping.  Play with a kid or pet.  Watch a funny video.  Paint your nails.  Paint with watercolors.  Doodle.  Read a few pages in a good book.  Laugh!

While it’s totally normal to feel overwhelmed from time to time, if feelings of overwhelm are happening often, take a step back and ask yourself why.  Maybe you need to take a good hard look at some of your life habits that need to be changed.  I have been there, for sure, and while it’s not always easy to be honest with yourself, getting stress under control sooner rather than later is necessary for your health, and for the good of those around you.  Trust me!

Finally, remember the power of your attitude.  Positive thinking is a choice, and a joyful, peaceful attitude in any circumstance is a fruit of the Spirit.  Stay close to Jesus, keep your head up, and you can make it through any valley!  Remember that you come from a long line of strong women, and I believe in you!

To Overcoming and Thriving,

Mama

 

On Dreams, Goals, & Making Time

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Dear Kate & Annabeth,

One day, you will outgrow the magical days of twirling in tutus and spending countless hours in pretend play, drawing, swinging, adventuring, and dreaming.  And in your adult realization of “what you want to be when you grow up,” you will realize, and maybe even yearn for, the true magic of unlimited time and creativity that childhood so freely offers.  You may find yourselves working outside or inside your home, or both, on jobs that, while ultimately fulfilling, some days feel overwhelming and exhausting.  You may at times feel like you’ve even lost a part of yourself, but know that she is there, deep inside, that creative little girl who loved to dance and draw.  Don’t ever lose sight of your dreams, of the creative spark and special gifts that the Lord has given you, to bless the world for His glory.  Ultimately, the world needs your unique contributions!

There will be seasons where you put your dreams and goals on the back burner, and rightfully so, for noble reasons such as serving your family or others, completing a degree, getting established in a new job, or scaling back to care for yourself during a health crisis.  Simplicity is good, and “doing it all” is a slippery slope that leads to exhaustion and burnout; I know, because I’ve been there, but that’s another lesson for another day.  Efficiency and productivity – the seeming buzzwords of our society – are good and well, but you aren’t a robot, and it’s ok to have dreams and goals outside of your “main jobs” tucked away in your back pocket for a passing season.  Just don’t keep them there forever.

If you wait for the “right time” or to have “enough time” to chase after your dreams, then you’ll be waiting forever.  I’ve learned that we must make time for the things that are important to us, and most things worth having are worth sacrificing for.  A good example in my own life is this writing challenge – and some academic writing projects I’m trying to finish.  There are a million reasons why I don’t “have time” to write – a crazy busy season in my job, taking care of you guys, church activities, some other family issues, keeping our house from becoming a disaster zone… and the list goes on.  But the Lord has put a desire in my heart to write, so I’m going to set a timer and give it my best shot for the next 28 days.  It’s not going to be perfect and carefully edited for hours, like my typical writing pattern, but it’s going to be done.  I’m hoping at the end of that time, I will have passed the 21-day mark needed to establish a new habit in daily writing.

Writing is one dream I have, and there are many others!  I want so badly to model for you how to give my all to being a mom and wife, while also working hard to develop and use my own God-given strengths and desires for His purposes.  You will probably have totally different dreams, and that is great!  You are both different people, from each other, and from me.  Remember that dreams lead to intentions, intentions lead to goals, goals lead to actions, and consecutive actions form habits.  Whatever your dreams are, write them down.  Putting them in ink somehow makes them real.  Then, break them into goals, and finally, carve out time.  I promise that one day, when you look back on your life, you won’t regret going for it – even if you fail – as much as you’ll regret wishing that you would have.

To Dreaming and Doing,

Mama

 

You are Covered in Prayer

Dear Kate & Annabeth,

Because I love you, and because I believe wholeheartedly in God’s love for you, I pray for both of you very often – almost every day.  I try to pray for you in the mornings and often throughout the day.  Sometimes we get to pray together in the car, around the table, or before you go to sleep, and nothing makes my heart smile bigger!  I pray many things for you – for the Lord to draw you to Himself and use you for His glory, for your protection – physical, mental, and emotional, for your desire to know God and to hunger for His Word (the Bible), for your friendships, for your teachers, for your attitude and behavior, for God’s grace to cover the places I fail you in my parenting.  You are so richly blessed that your Daddy, Granna, and many other family members and friends pray for you, as well!  Here are two specific passages from the Bible I often pray over you (inserting your names as they fit):

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.  For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  – Colossians 1:9-14

I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever!  Amen.  – Ephesians 3:16-21

The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing, at all times, with perseverance (1 Thessalonians 5:17, Ephesians 6:18).  I love seeing both of you growing in your ability and desire to pray.  Prayer holds great power and is one of the greatest gifts we can give.  In our easily offended society, I’ve never had anyone to counter with an angry or offended response to an offer of prayer.  Remember that as you go out to shine your light into a world that all too often seems downcast and hopeless.  When you say you will pray, do it – right then, if possible.  If not, jot a reminder to pray later.  Follow up, and tell people you are praying for them; there is no greater encouragement!

When you’re on the mountaintop or when trials come – and they will – take heart in knowing that you have been covered in prayer from the time before you were even born.  One day, I’ll make a list of all the answered prayers I’ve seen in each of your lives. How truly amazing and awe-inspiring that we are loved by a God who knows us personally and listens to and answers our humble prayers!

All my Love,

Mama

You are Loved

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Dear Kate & Annabeth,

I am certainly not a perfect mom, but I hope my actions and words show you daily that, above all else, you are deeply loved, just as you are.

From the time we knew we were expecting each of you, your dad and I have loved you with everything that we have.  Kate, the night we found out I was pregnant with you, your Daddy and I went walking around our neighborhood, talking excitedly about our plans for our growing family and wondering about the person you would be.  Annabeth, the day we found out about you, we stayed up late on the couch in our new home (the week that we moved in), wondering which bedroom would be yours and pondering your personality, possible names, and how you would make our family complete.  When I nursed and rocked each of you to sleep as tiny babies, time and time again, singing “You are my Sunshine” and old hymns, I would watch you sleeping in my arms and wonder how I could be so blessed as to know such a great love, knowing that I would do anything for you.  And what a fun adventure it has been to see you both grow, change, talk to us, and transform into your own little wonderful personalities, with your unique gifts!  I often wonder who you will become in 5, 10, 15 years from now.  While I have big expectations for you, know that nothing you could ever do, nor any mistake you could make, could make me love you any more or less.

But as much as we love you, God loves you infinitely more – as I try to remind you at bedtime each night!  As your Heavenly Father, who made you and offered His own Son, Jesus, up for you, His love for you far surpasses anyone’s – even ours.  Human love is always based on condition, no matter how sincere our motives, but God’s love, like His nature, is never changing, always constant – the same today, yesterday, and forever.  No matter what you do, no matter what the world or other people may tell you, you can always trust in God’s love for you.  You are truly, deeply, unconditionally loved and treasured!  Nothing can ever take that away from you.

No matter what is happening in your life – right, wrong, or otherwise – you can rest assured that you are truly, unconditionally loved.

Love,

Mama

 

 

 

 

Write 31 Days Series: Letters to my Daughters

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Each October, a group of ladies around the world participate in an online 31-day writing challenge where bloggers (including newbies like myself) create and share series on tons of interesting and inspirational topics.  I’ve really enjoyed reading some of the posts shared in past years and need accountability to build a daily writing habit, so the challenge seemed like a fun and easy way to get started.

As a mom to two girls, ages two and six, I’ve chosen a topic that’s near and dear to my heart!  Join me here for the next 31 days as I share inspiration, musings, humor, and practical tips related to topics I want to impart to my daughters when they are older.  In addition to leaving a written legacy for my family, I hope my words might inspire other moms, as I have been deeply touched by the wisdom and humility graciously woven through the words of other women who have walked this path of motherhood before and alongside me.

All posts will be linked below, as they are published.

Day 1:  You are Loved

Day 2:  You are Covered in Prayer

Day 3:  On Dreams, Goals, and Making Time

Day 4:  What to do When you Feel Overwhelmed

Day 5:  To Be Significant…

Day 6:  Three Magic Letters to Reset Your Attitude

Day 7:  When You Don’t Know What To Do

Day 8:  The One Thing

Day 9:  When You are Tired…

Day 10:  On Elections, Opinions, & Thinking

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Day 31: